The premiere of Marvel’s newest spinoff series, ‘Inhumans’, arrives with its death certificate practically signed. After a disastrous debut in IMAX theaters a few weeks ago, the ABC network has already started hedging its bets by referring to the show as a “limited series” rather than, as originally expected, the first season of many more planned. Is it really as bad as the buzz surrounding it?
Pretty much, yeah. I mean, it ain’t great.
First, let’s get the plot summary part out of the way. I’ll try not to dwell on it too much, because it’s not terribly interesting. The show presumes that viewers are already familiar with the concept of the Inhumans and their Terrigenesis process from watching ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, and makes little allowance for the possibility of anyone trying to pick up this series fresh. Although no other direct tie-ins with the characters of that show are made, the story takes place sometime after the Terrigen outbreak on Earth transformed thousands of unsuspecting people into super-powered mutants (which happened between Seasons 2 and 3). Somehow never mentioned on ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ was the existence of a secret Inhuman colony on the moon, hidden in an invisible city called Attilan.
We’re introduced to the royal family. King Black Bolt (Anson Mount from ‘Hell on Wheels’) is mute, because any word from his mouth will unleash a deadly shockwave (as he learned by accidentally killing his parents when he was a boy). Queen Medusa (Serinda Swan) has very long red hair that she controls like an appendage. (Combined with the really unflattering costumes she’s forced to wear, it’s not a good look at all.) Princess Crystal (Isabelle Cornish, sister of Abbie) can shoot fiery crystals or something out of her hands, but more importantly has a giant bulldog named Lockjaw that can teleport anywhere she orders it to go, which is used as a major crutch in the plot. Save the dog (obviously intended to be a mascot for the series), the only character of any interest on the show is Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus (Iwan Rheon, who played the dastardly Ramsay Bolton on ‘Game of Thrones’), who’s fully human with no powers and resents it. By the actor’s casting, you can probably guess that he’ll turn out to be the villain, and sure enough he does.
Maximus believes that Black Bolt is a weak ruler, and doesn’t like being confined on the moon. He wants to bring all the Inhumans to Earth, and itches for war against the human race. To expedite this, he sows discontent throughout the city’s population and launches a coup, betraying his brother. In the process, he shaves off Medusa’s hair – which the character is upset about, but I’m sure the actress was greatly relieved by. Black Bolt and Medusa escape to Earth courtesy of the teleporting dog, along with loyal guard Gorgon (Eme Ikwuakor) and royal advisor Karnak (Ken Leung). However, the four of them are erroneously deposited on separate parts of the island of Oahu. Meanwhile, back on the moon, Maximum captures Princess Crystal and her dog, consolidates his power, and continues to win over the rest of the Inhumans – who, it should be noted, appear to have been legitimately oppressed under the old caste system. Maybe Maximus isn’t actually a bad guy after all?
Other specifics of the plotting in the two-part premiere are largely pointless to get into here. The four heroes (if that’s what they really are) spend most of the time wandering around Hawaii searching for each other. Gorgon hangs out with some chill surfers. Karnak gets lost in the jungle. Black Bolt makes a spectacle of himself and gets arrested for some nonsense. And Medusa has to fight off an assassin named Auran (Sonya Balmores) that Maximus sent after her. The queen gets the upper hand and kills the woman – or thinks she does. At the end, it’s revealed that Auran has the power to heal herself even from mortal injuries.
Elsewhere, an aerospace engineer named Louise (Ellen Woglum) detects energy surges from the moon aimed at Hawaii and flies there to check them out. I assume she’ll be an ally to Black Bolt and his group.
Premiere Verdict / Grade: C-
The number of ways this show goes wrong are almost too numerous to catalog. Most of its sins simply boil down to being cheesy and boring. The costumes look silly. The characters are dull. (Casting Anson Mount and then forcing him to suppress his natural charisma and remain mute, leaving him with nothing to do but scowl at everyone for the entire premiere, is an unfathomable mistake.) The plot is a big yawn.
Despite being shot with IMAX cameras, the show isn’t even particularly interesting visually. The Hawaiian locations are scenic enough, but I’m pretty sure I recognized almost all of them recycled from ‘Lost’, and both the photography and direction are entirely pedestrian. I feel really bad for the (few) Marvel fans who got suckered into paying to see this in IMAX theaters. What a waste of time and money that must have been.
‘Inhumans’ is a big dud. Following in the wake of the disappointing ‘Iron Fist’ on Netflix earlier this year, it may signal that Marvel needs to shake up its TV division. I really hope that nothing that happens on this show proves pertinent to the next season of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, because I doubt I’ll make it to the end.